Core skills: What are the requirements for powerful writing in English?

1. Principles of Powerful Writing

Before you start writing you should have an idea of the output you are aiming for. Some rules of writing: 1. Think, 2. Powerful writing is rewriting, 3. Take sufficient time for brainstorming, 4. Be consistent, 5. Powerful writing requires managing different roles, 6. The occasion defines the most appropriate writing form, 7. Avoid plagiarism, 8. Reveal sources, 9. Easy reading is hard writing, 10. Contents and writing skills are complementary to each other.

1. Inventory (brainstorming)

You write anything that comes into your mind. The function of this phase is to provide space to write down everything about the problem.

2. Structure (norming)

It requires read and judge to have powerful writing. The more structured you have worked during the inventory phase the easier this phase. Minimum requirement of academic writing is mastering basic grammar with correct use and revelation of sources.

3. Formulation (performing)

Rewriting is important. It is necessary to do this to ensure quality report.

4. Editing

Editing requires separate state of mind. Editor check for three aspects: 1. Logic, 2. Readability, 3. Layout. Editing can take several rounds of rereading and rewriting.

2. Plagiarism

Plagiarism is increasingly become serious phenomenon. Acknowledging your sources are important to increase your credibility

What is plagiarism?

  • Copying somebody else’s paper and delivering it as your own

  • Literally copying large part of somebody else’s text with or without referencing

  • Copying paragraph or sentence without quotes

  • Copying with some changes in words with or without references

  • Writing down a paragraph or sentence while it is not clear whose work it is.

  • Copying somebody else’s text with incorrect sources.

What is not plagiarism?

  • Writing down common knowledge

  • Quoting of quantitative data with source place directly

  • Quoting a number of sentences from another author with proper reference to the author

  • Paraphrasing with reference.

Causes of plagiarism

  • It is easy to copy somebody else’s work with the rise of computer and internet

  • Many online firms offer papers against payment

  • The person does not know precisely what is right or wrong.

How to avoid plagiarism?

  • Paraphrase

  • Quote only a brief paragraph

  • Include correct references

  • Collect few similar text and write down the comparisons

  • Do not make yourself responsible for judgements of others

  • Do not accept any excuses to commit plagiarism.

3. Reporting: Opening Parts

Standard reporting consist of title page table of contents, acknowledgement and introduction with some other optional parts

A title page (of a research report) includes:

  • A clear and informative title and descriptive subtitle

  • Full name of authors in alphabetical sequence

  • Place and date

  • Name of supervisor

  • Institutional affiliation

A Table of contents includes:

  • A typographical formula revealing the structure

  • All introductory components following the table of contents

  • All part titles in capital letters and bold print

  • All chapter titles and sections that are numbered

  • All closing components with page indication

A Preface/Acknowledgement includes:

  • A short explanation stating why this research is of interest

  • A brief reference to the scientific discourse that relates to this piece of work

  • A list of the people you have cooperated

  • A ‘thank you’ line for your supervisor? It can be counter-productive.

  • ‘I’ form can be use instead of we

  • Name, place and month/year at the end

  • n shorter article acknowledgement can contain your background else well.

An Introduction includes:

  • Basic research question and research aims

  • A longer explanation of the background of your question

  • An explanation of the methodology

  • Outline of parts/chapters

  • Guidance for different types of readers

  • No announcement of a conclusion/summary

  • A statement concerning all of the relevant choice

  • Some definition is necessary

Layout opening components

Some minimum requirements: 1. Title page, 2. Table of content, 3. Preface/acknowledgement, 4. introduction

4. Reporting: Main body

User-friendliness = Readability

  • Firstly, state what is the main message

  • Always organise text according to an increasing degree of specificity

  • Assist the reader with summaries ad intelligent headings

Purposeful chapters and sections

  • Refer to the content of the last section

  • State what is discussed in the section itself

  • Make clear why you have chosen this particular sequence

  • Think about a ‘catchy’ first line that attracts the attention of the reader

Conclusive chapter and sections

  • Always give a brief summary of a chapter and a longer section

  • Never add material/information to the presentation in your concluding statement

  • Think about the nature of your last line


  • Paragraph are not sections

  • A paragraph indicates a separate element in your text

  • Focused opening lines enable readers to grasp your message quickly

5. Reporting: Final Parts

Minimum requirement: conclusions and biography with some optional such as epilogue and glossary


  • Conclusion always repeats the research questions

  • After summarising, write the well-structured answer to the question

  • Final conclusion considers the flaws in your research methodology or other problems

  • A conclusion never adds new information

  • The conclusion ends with a good last line

Conclusion specify recommendations for further research


It is mainly used when new information has appeared between time of finishing the main transcript and going to the supervisor


It contains concepts and a short description of their meaning. It is not a complement of the text. Try to refrain from composing a glossary


You put an explanation, data and tables in an annex:

  • When the information can be summarised easily in the text

  • When it only contains background information

  • When you need to explain of methodology

  • Always includes the full questionnaire

Some rules of annex:

  • Stand on its feet

  • Write annex only when you have referred to it in the text

  • Give annexes a number

  • Limit the number

  • Number the pages of the annexes as ongoing pages



It contains the most important concepts and names and reveals the location in the text by page number. It is a good idea to write index as it might help to consider the keywords that are most relevant to your type of research.

6. Argumentation

Argumentation = dull

Scientific text is transparent, predictable and relatively dull. You specify everything beforehand

Characteristics of good and bad argumentation

Good: clarity, succinctness, simplicity, precision

Bad: ambiguity, lengthiness, unnecessary use of complete vocabulary, inaccuracy

Pro and con arguments

A good method of arguing is by systematically trying to list arguments ‘in favour’ and ‘against’ an observation.

  • If there are many convincing arguments, it indicates the overall argument might be true

  • If more against, it indicates that you should not support the observation

  • Some argument can be more important than others

  • If the number of pros and cons are the same, think of the conditions where each prevails

Schematising your argumentation

Schematising is the use of table and logic tree to argue


  • Clear, succinct

  • Non-circular

  • Content specific

  • Explicit on main points and side issues

Fallacies in argumentation

Some common fallacies in argumentation:

  • The use of authority and big names

  • Use of normative adjectives

  • Use of normative assessments

  • Improper deductions

Strengths and weaknesses

It is better to make an inventory and then make a selection from an overall view than on the basis of partial argumentation

Necessary and/or sufficient condition?

Two conditions are whether it is necessary or sufficient. The strongest type of argument is when it is necessary and also sufficient

7. Rewriting

Your writing should be clear, succinct, simple and precise.

Powerful writing requires a particular state of mind...

Vices and virtues in attitudes to writing

  • Vices: self-satisfaction, disdain, rigidity and resistance to working more rationally

  • Virtues: self-criticism, empathy, professionalism, systematic and reflexivity

...Which changes over time

Two problems can appear if you lack the mental state to separate writing texts from reading:

  • Many people have difficulty correcting their own writing

  • If you try to correct it on-screen you lose the overview of all the components

8. Style: Common Errors


It means attaching personal characteristics to a organisation or institutions. It often error in style but may also indicate error in interpretation as well.

Passive instead of active phrasing

Passive writing tends to be heavy and unfavourable in writing.

Long instead of short sentences

Lengthy sentences are usually unnecessary and weaken argument

Abusing brackets and quotation marks

Try not to have more than two or three remarks in brackets per page

Most statements in bracket can be written in a separate sentence

Abuse of footnotes

Footnotes are often abused to elaborate on certain additional points that are excluded from the text. Exception to this:

When referencing to interviews

When referring to ad internet source

When you aim at different audiences

Unspecific time indication

Be specific in timing issue and always be positive

Unclear or ambiguous indications

Use name correctly to ensure no ambiguities

Gender-specific language

Avoid using this language since it is more appropriate to use alternatives

Writing in another language

If you write in another language make sure you are sufficiently fluent in that language

9. Style: Phrasing Problems

It sometimes better to avoid using some words such as these:

  • ‘Having said this': you are writing not talking

  • ‘Thus.., therefore’: conclusion does not have to be announced

  • ‘In short’: so before you couldn’t formulate your argument in a more concise way

10. Spelling: Common Errors

1. Time indication

  • You can use slash to indicate a financial or academic year

  • You can abbreviate months when used in tables and footnotes

2. Numerals

  • Generally spell the numbers. Nevertheless for more tedious one numeral can be used

  • Be aware of punctuation differences

3. Common spelling errors for non-native English speakers

Non-native speaker sometimes try to link words wrongly or wrong usage of hyphen. English nevertheless has used some compound words as well

4. Typos and spell checkers

Typographical errors are irritating and decrease the credibility of the text. Be aware of the difference between American and British English

5. Authentic foreign keywords

  • Explain the first time they appear

  • Does not apply for company names

  • Consistency in spelling

Anglicised names

Consistency in names is important

Listing common words

In order to avoid lengthy and tedious spelling checks, start by making a short list of the words that you are likely to use often. Also decide upon your preferred spelling.

11. Quoting and Paraphrasing

Three dimensions of correct quotation: 1. The difference between direct quotation and paraphrasing, 2. How to reproduce the text and 3. When and how to add changes to a quote

Direct quotations

  • A few words: Put this in single quotation marks and use a comma to separate your own introductory phrase

  • A short quotations: use a colon to introduce smaller quotations

  • Longer quotations: usually indented and separated from the main text. Some publishers leave out quotation marks for these indented quotes

  • Consecutive quotations: it is necessary to indicate source of each in a separate reference


You reproduce substantially the form and combination of ideas taken from another source but put it in your own words.

  • Referring to sources is even necessary if you adopt line of reasoning, idea, phrase and even a word from someone else

  • Abstain from paraphrasing an argument that has been paraphrased by someone else

  • Never paraphrase an indirect source while referring to the original source

  • When paraphrasing a list of points, includes the source and introductory sentence

Sources for quotations

  • Secondary sources: looks for the original sources and quote properly.

  • Interviews: no direct quotation from interviewee. When referencing, try to accommodate privacy of the interviewee

Changing quotes?

  • Original spelling: do not change original spelling. Insert parentheses when you omit something from direct excerpt. Add bracket if you change the word form

  • Double/single quotations: depends on your style. Use double when you want to emphasise that in the original excerpt one word gets quoted.

  • Add emphasis: state emphasis added whenever you underline or italics some words in the quotation.

12. References

Also refer to your source. Reference and bibliography should enable reader to 1. Return to the original sources, the reader where you got the information from, 3. Enter into a more fruitful discussion

Reference systems

  • Harvard reference system: it gives a shortened reference in the text and a full reference in bibliography

  • Note reference system: it gives the reference in a note at the bottom of a page. Do not use end-notes, no abbreviation if possible.

Reference types

  • General referencing: if you mention a general message in the writing of other, it is sufficient to mention the author and the year of publication. For newspaper and magazine, it is better to use date than the number of edition.

  • Argument reference: it should follow that the more specific you use the work of other the more specific the reference will be.

  • Internet references: always reveal the complete source as well as the date consulted, directly mention the article instead of the complete website address (for article), and refer to the author if you know the writer.

13. Abbreviations and Acronyms

1. Abbreviations: When to avoid them

  • A reader will not automatically know what you mean by an abbreviation

  • It is better to spell abbreviations in full the first time and repeat the abbreviations during a longer text

  • The meaning of abbreviations can be completely different in different language

  • Write in full, do not use contracted form

  • Readers think of different meanings with common abbreviations of Latin expressions in scientific texts.

2. Abbreviations: How to use them correctly

  • Abbreviation job titles: it is recommended to check national spelling as it differs from country to country

  • International system of measurement: usually written in lower case

  • Currency indications: currency abbreviation should always be preceded by the currency indication. Spell the currency if you are unsure that the reader understands.

  • Nationally used abbreviations: usage of some nationally used abbreviation is allowed even in English language like status of companies

  • Abbreviation with or without full stop: it is dropped in international system of measurement and in some language for personal indication. Most abbreviation uses no full stop. Full stop added in abbreviation of countries and cities and according to convention

  • Economise on space: table, boxes and figures: you can use more abbreviation in tables, boxes and figure but you need to explain the meaning.

14. Tables, Figures and Boxes

1. Main aspects tables/figures/boxes

  • The status: always identify the source accurately, no source indication means it is your own invention

  • The aim: it contains a clear heading/ title that reveals the topic, the place and the time frame.

  • The main contents: distinguish column and row indicators, includes a legend and under the table includes explanations

  • Figures, tables and boxes should be a support for the text but it should stand on its own.

2. Qualitative tables

Table consist of summarise of your own argument and other people’s argument.

3. Layout: tables and figures

  • Always spell figure and table in full

  • Number tables and figures preferably by chapter

  • Always begin the heading/title in capital letter

  • No full stop at the end of items

  • Always place the number and description above the table.

  • Capital letter for source and note indication

  • Add explanatory notes

  • Distinguish clearly what belongs to table/figures and what belongs to the main text

  • Be aware of copyright provisions

  • Position table on relevant page

  • Use landscape only if the table has many columns

4. Layout: Boxes

When included, boxes:

  • Should you have a clear function in the text

  • Often serve illustrative and/or layout purposes

  • Should identify a source that can be placed in or below the box

  • Should preferably not longer than one page

. Bibliography

Golden rules of a bibliography

  • list your sources alphabetically and chronologically

  • Do not include sources that you have not referred to in the text

  • Do not include works that you have not read

  • Do not split up your bibliography according to sources

Digital administration bibliography

Some advantages of using digital administration bibliography:

  • Abstracts are included in your bibliography

  • Keywords are included

  • Automatically updates your bibliography

  • Providers of these programs frequently update their reference style

  • Makes your research effort more efficient

Bibliography: author

  • Starts most of the time with the last name of an author.

  • Prefix: in references in the text they are stated first

Overview main bibliographical references

Most widely used bibliography references are summed up in this paragraph.


Date of publication: only state the year

Full title information of publication

Essential information on the publisher

Never used the original source if you used a translation

Date of publication


Add the exact page references in a periodical article


Adds: It is necessary to include the exact date, URL and store email address that was used as a reference

Layout bibliography

  • When the reference is longer that one line use an indent for the remainder of the reference

  • It is sufficient to use ‘-‘ when one name is used several times

  • Works by single author precede works edited by that author

  • Bibliographical entry always refers to the whole source

16. Layout

A good layout is always instrumental in getting you message across

One space

Always leave only one space margin after full stop, comma, etc


Do not hesitate to use italics to attract reader’s attention


Consider the consequences of using indent as it may give the shaky image


Begin on a new page (Chapter), section can begin anywhere

Chapter generally is separate part of the analysis that is more than five pages

Write down the number for a section not by name


  • Use tab or one or two spaces before the first line

  • Avoid having many short paragraph on one page

  • Avoid long paragraph of more than one page

Position title/headings/figures/tables

Check that title is not positioned at the bottom of the page. This is called widow or orphan construction

Tables and figures should also be an one page

Headings and titles

  • Formulate short headings

  • Rarely contains full sentence

  • Formulate active and direct headings

  • Always use it as support and guidance

  • Do not centre headings

  • Make it clearly distinguishable

  • Show different level consistently

Clearly structured text

Text should be clearly predictable with simple headings, subheadings, etc.

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